Record-breaking Global Teach Ag Network event reaches 50 states, 40 nations

Amy Duke
March 16, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Powerful and inspiring.” That is how Daniel Foster, associate professor of agricultural and extension education in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, described February’s Global Learning in Agriculture Conference 2021.

Hosted by the college’s Global Teach Ag Network, the virtual gathering brought together educators worldwide who share a vision of providing global learning opportunities in food, fiber and natural resources for their learners.

“Agriculture and the global issues facing agriculture do not recognize geographic or political boundaries," said Foster, who helps to coordinate the annual event. “Recognizing that, our goal was to provide current and future educators with the skill set to help their students engage in a globally interconnected world. This year’s conference, like those before it, was powerful and inspiring.”

The conference, known as “GLAG21,” featured educators representing diverse contexts from all over the world who discussed the event's theme, “Taking Action,” in the context of advances in global food, fiber and natural resources. This year’s event had record attendance, noted Foster, drawing 948 participants from all 50 U.S. states and 40 nations.

Global Teach Ag Network co-founder Melanie Miller Foster, assistant teaching professor of international agriculture, and Daniel Foster worked with 27 global learning partners to develop an engaging schedule for the five-day professional learning experience.

There were 19 live events, supplemental educational programs and speakers from academic settings, nongovernmental organizations and private industry. Among participating groups were Corteva Agriscience, the National FFA Organization, The World Food Prize Foundation, Nutrients for Life Foundations, and 14 colleges and universities.

Holding the conference virtually enables organizers to offer the event to a wider global audience, Miller Foster explained. “We knew we had to offer a great program, especially after months of being on Zoom every day,” she said.

One of the innovations was the “GLAG World Tour,” which showcased projects ranging from overcoming malnutrition in Guatemala to battling wheat stem rust disease in East Africa. “It was a wonderful opportunity to connect agriculture, food and natural resource researchers with a global portfolio to educators around the world,” said Miller Foster.

GLAG21
IMAGE: Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences

New to the forum was “GLAGcreates,” which featured a poetry café and set an attendance record for a live conference event. “Diverse voices shared their experiences and feelings on the issue of food security,” said Miller Foster. “It’s an emotion-laden topic, and we needed to find a way to address those emotions. With a challenge as large as food security, every discipline must have a seat at the table, including the humanities and arts.”

Foster and Miller Foster also recognized it was important to find ways for conference attendees to connect. They developed “GLAGGLE: Global Learning in Ag Group Learning Experience,” a program designed to connect small groups of educators from diverse contexts and locations.

The keynote speaker was Jennifer Williams, co-founder of the nonprofit TeachSDGs, Take Action Global and Edcamp Tampa Bay, who has dedicated herself for nearly 25 years to the field of education. She also authored the book, “Teach Boldly: Using EdTech for Social Good.”

Her presentation focused on preparing students to be global citizens following the Asia Society's four global competence domains: to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas and take action.

"We've seen this interesting shift in education from just pouring ideas into our students," she said. "We see more project-based and hands-on learning to address real-world problems. We are moving from consumption to the next level of action, where we bring purpose and passion to our students for collective change."

Leading a session was Taryn Devereux, faculty specialist with the University of Maryland Extension, who talked about her leadership and experience in developing a global classroom model.

“In a COVID-19 world, we are being asked to radically re-imagine global education, research and programming, and I wanted to share some of our learning lessons and hear from others about how they’ve adapted to new realities,” said Devereux, an affiliate instructor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

She said every conference participant had a unique story. “It was energizing to be in a community with like-minded, passionate people in my field,” she said. “I learned about professional development opportunities, relevant research to follow, curriculum ideas and even new online tools that can enhance my Zoom teaching.” 

The Global Teach Ag Network is a collaborative effort between the college’s Office of International Programs and the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. 

Members of the GLAG21 team at Penn State included graduate students Carson Letot, Jana Russell and Joe Cho, and undergraduate interns Thomas Gabel, Brandon Bixler, Lacey Walker and Grace Shawver.

More information about the conference, including links to YouTube videos, can be accessed by visiting https://sites.psu.edu/glag/ or by emailing globalaged@psu.edu. The program also is active on social media and can be found on Facebook at Global Teach Ag and on Twitter at @globalteachag

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 17, 2021